That’s what the sport is for. That is, to defy the odds, people, pundits,predictions and patterns. The question about this French open was pitted as Rafa again or Novak finally? And when both of them settled in one half to meet at the quarters that match became the heaviest of all. Winning it would be the title, well almost. That almost remained almost. The ‘heavy’ match between Novak and Rafa was not so loaded except the first set. Nadal fell for just the second time at Roland Garros but pretty meekly.
What was heavy about this year’s French open was what it should be. The finale! As Novak stepped up to claim his first RG crown after demolishing the long reigning ‘king’ and handed the newly wed Andy Murray his first defeat since marriage, nobody dared to put their money anywhere else. Yet, that’s why there are two sides of the draw and they play rather than just let the supposedly best man take it all. It is all in that day, in that moment that winning and losing is decided. The other man who walked out of the tunnel was Stan-the occasional man these days – seemingly well aware of the occasion. He played loaded, heavy, spoiler, unaware of the history on the other side and blasted the world no 1 off the court.
Sounds easy, execution way too tough. There were moments when the expert script seems to take over when Novak broke on right occasions and threatened to run away with the goods as he usually does. Stan hung on. He brought his A-game in the most clutch moments. The booming serve, booming forehand and the yes, booming backhand down the line (Isn’t everything about Wawrinka booming when he is in the zone). And yes that backhand is a thing of rare beauty too. He did not fade, kept on the belief and saw it through. It’s by no means an easy thing to do in your first Paris final and only second ever against a most seasoned campaigner who also happens to be the top dog. But then I guess Stan focussed on the positives – nobody expected him to win, the pressure was more on the other side, and he had stretched and beaten Novak before in the past and in run to his maiden GS title.
Stan – even the occasional man has finally gotten out of the massive shadow of Roger Federer. He isn’t young to register himself as one of the greats but he can continue to be one of the great spoilsport for some of the greats. He snatched Novak’s AO streak last year before surprisingly plummeting Nadal (injured or not) of one GS pedestal. AO was so sure Nadal will win and equal Pete Sampras as they flew him in all the way to present the trophy. Not to be! This FO Stan the man emerged again to hand his big friend Rog (who had a decent chance having avoided Nadal) a ticket back home before clutching that elusive clay win over Djokovic even after losing the first set.
Having witnessed all that, we got to have great respect for the following:
1. Nadal winning it 9 times when even 1 is so elusive
2. Novak finally beating Rafa and for keep coming in for the title – he might just get it
3. Stan for grabbing it – the one handed BH beauty lives
4. Roger Federer 2009 win – imagine the pressure after Nadal’s loss
Bye Clay! Bring on Grass (The Wimbledon draw is out tomorrow)!
P.S. - Moral of the story is – Don’t beat Nadal at French Open – It is jinxed at the final hurdle.